Saw Sleaford Mods, supported by Steve Ignorant (Crass) and Slice of Life, at the Irish Centre on Monday.

Don’t have much time to write a lot about the gig at the moment, but it was one of my periodic musical interlude game changers, and worth noting briefly in advance of a proper written thing.


DO THEY OWE US A LIVING? (Soft Pink Truth version)

Recently I have been mostly digesting media second and third hand. This mulch comes to you via Warren Ellis. He writes about an account of a Tinder account where a user set a rule that any male contacting her had to name five books by female authors.

You’ve got to have standards, though! This is being written at some remove from that context, so let’s just see it as a bid to prove my feminazi party line adherence. Anyway, top of the head, straight off, no messing about, here is just such a list.

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe – Penelope Lively
A ‘low fantasy’ novel, this is a complex and deceptively slender book for younger readers. I first read it when I was about 10, I think, so it was a few years older than me. It’s about a boy trying to keep a diary while moving house and being plagued by the poltergeist of a grumpy 17th century wizard, with the parallel story of the diary of a 19th century boy also troubled by the maleficent mage. Possibly seismic effect on youthful psyche?

Bad Blood – Lorna Sage
Not a sororal slap-down in the manner of Taylor Swift, but a crafty anti-misery-memoir. The cover of one paperback print made it look like ‘A child called it’. Subsequent versions have amped up the piratical femme fatale aspects of a different author photo.
a child called Lorna


“She lifts your spirits even as she hurts your heart.” Allison Pearson.
Same words, different meanings. Discuss.

Sage’s autobiography, as you would expect from someone who edited The Cambridge Guide to Women’s Writing in English (1999), shows she was neither and both. It’s deliciously written, and by the by worth pairing with Oranges are Not the Only Fruit if you’re teaching or studying A level Lit.

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
First read as a queasy undergraduate scratching my pimples, this one is quite excellent on altered states of perception, “madness”, and perspective. “The leaden circles dissolve in the air.”

The Secret History – Donna Tartt
On the way back from, or to, Liverpool, to look at the university in 1992, or 1993, I forget which or when, I met a fellow prospective undergraduate on the train. We talked and compared notes, bonding over a shared love of Suede (the band, who I think were between Metal Mickey and Animal Nitrate, and so VERY exciting). She commended another Brett, Easton Ellis, and Donna Tartt to me. I had Douglas Coupland and I forget what else to offer. There were lists, bands, etc. I was impressed and intimidated by her studied maturity, and fresh off the train scampered to the shop to pick up a copy of The Secret History. It has of course stayed with me, from youthful bookishness to mature (well, more mature, anyway) bookishness.

Far Away – Caryl Churchill
I only encountered, then taught, this play for the first time last year, but I think that only goes to show how well-organised words, on the page or as drama, can always change your viewpoint, widen your parameters, blow your gaskets.

There you go then. EASY. Me and women writers go way back.

Today, setting a fire, dead wood things from the garage, I was taken with a very strong urge to burn all my notebooks. The shoeboxesful in the the cupboard. The A6s, the 9x7s, the Moleskines, the fauxlskines, the ring-bound reporter’s pads. All of them.

“It’s either that or carry this shite around for the rest of our lives. Anyway,” (I imagined the scene vividly, talking to J in my head, throwing another handful into the garden incinerator,) “there was nothing of note before now.” (I saw her eyes roll, and her swift comeback. Well, a nice idea, I thought, and started writing it down…)

…she arrived mid-note. The family slept inside. I relayed the scenario. A micro-beat.

‘So… have you burned them?’

I had not. But, the actual factual act of doing so was sealed. It was a done deal in my head, the slightest of prods all that was needed to stoke the blaze. I scampered upstairs, and down again, clutching a fairly heavy wine box… more volumes than I thought.

20 years of notebooks consigned to the memory hole with glee. Tedious lists of train names… lost in-jokes, forgotten transcendence, unrecoverable glories, confusion, bitterness and drunken scribbles, all gone to a series of blazes. A bright-eyed lightening of the load, a fiery shedding of the shite, a bonfire of the bollocks. Arson is addictive, I alliterated happily to myself, toasting the flames with Grolsch and Glenlivet.

The smell, the temperature, every good feeling I remember from festivals, from camping trips, from other times I’ve enjoyed a ritual purge. All marked with sincere libations to the heavenly hosts, to all our patrons and matrons.

Lighter, reader. Lighter.

The title for this post comes from ‘top searches’ on my wordpress dashboard.

Tonight I stepped outside at twilight to shut in the chickens. It was quiet, so quiet I stopped by the side of the house and just stood in the silence for a moment or two. All the day birds had tucked in for the night. We’d had a thunderstorm earlier, and everything smelled crisp and fresh. One of them there moments of clarity ensued.


Then the fragments of alternate lyrics to a version of The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, only about a chicken, re-established themselves in my head (“Yeah, let me get some millet, I ain’t too hungry.”) and normal service was resumed. But still, still.

This summer’s pans on the hobs:

  • Enthusiastically Shedding Stuff
  • Moving house
  • Looking at my family in wonderment (simmer forever)
  • Putting together a hard copy publication
    (Actual physical print product. Comics, music, politics, etc. Would you like to write or draw or something for it? Do please let me know.)

The UK election results are all in – 650 seats declared.

Conservatives “win” with 331. Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP leaders resign in “defeat”, a logical yet frustrating consequence of a first past the post system where loser apparently takes nowt. At least in horse racing you get 25% odds with a place.

So. Five more years of binary debate, rule by lobbyists, and everything must go economics. Fabulous.

Mood today:

No, really:

“Old, tired, worn out, second-hand sentences.”

Envisaging a spike in searches for info on Electoral Reform now.

Filling in application forms for jobs in the teaching sector is very much like making love to a beautiful woman. You have to go through all the boxes carefully a right pain. All the usual basic information is required, plus a fiddly level of detail, and – the nub of my crux – an annoyingly variegated range of formatting styles, designed to make the process as unstreamlined as possible.

Name, age, addresses (going back at least five years because child protection legislation), edumacation details, and a full list of jobs from when you finished school. I mean, for me, that’s a longish time ago now. I asked a Head of Recruitment recently if they really needed them all. She assured me they did, because child protection legislation and the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service).

While it seems likely that citing DBS regs is probably the new ‘Health and Safety’ sorrowful headshake for HR, ‘post Savile’, I’m happy to comply with all that, because, well, protected children, and of course me not having my application binned. Fortunately, having neglected to cover the years 1995-1997 on that occasion, ‘Eleventy thousand bars and shops I pinballed round for two years in my early 20s’ seemed to be an acceptable gloss 20 years on.

The application forms for most teaching jobs in the UK all seem to have pretty much the same layout, too. Tables, in Word, with the end of cell markers that signify orphaned post codes unless you fudge about with the size of text or font. Annoyingly, filling out multiple variations of the same form does not allow for easy cut and pasting of job details, exam results, etc. There is always a somewhat different format, always multiple variations of box configurations. One I filled out two days ago had a section for every single detail of my schooling:

[from mm][yy] [to mm] [yy] [school] [school address] [exam] [grade] [certificating body]

“Make it easy on yourseeeeelllllf” I warbled somewhat desperately as I tabbed and c+v’d. The app I was copying from was laid out in precisely the reverse order as well.

While resisting (somewhat feebly, given my embrace of products Googlish) the 21st century urge to spreadsheet database centralisation, at 22.45 last night I considered forming, or at least joining, a campaign to force everyone advertising through TES Online to use a central CV/application form resource. This far-too-sensible-to-work-in-real-life notion rapidly extrapolated to the more entertaining scenario of being able to plug my brain in, Matrix-style, to some industrial virtual teacher repository, where our smiling avatars sit arrayed like apps in the Apple store. Teacher with the most up-votes gets the job.

Four months! Well, we had a second child. Work is really busy. And, as advertised by the spring equinox and solar eclipse… there’s change afoot.

I was just talking today in a teaching job interview about how great the internet is as a medium for writers, anyway, and there I am not making time for it. I barely get time to read at the minute.


I’m sure imminent Easter holidays and some day trips will fix things. The sea! The sky! The sea! The sky!


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